Blended Lives, one of Goodwood's educational programs, runs from January 29 to February 1 this year. Every 4th grader in Leon County public schools (over 2,300 children) is given the opportunity to attend this program both at Goodwood and Riley House. Our focus this year is the Spanish Territorial period of Florida through to the United States Territorial period. Mike and I will be on the front porch of the Main House dressed in period clothing (of sorts) and acting out the part of the first family of Goodwood, Bryan and Eveline Croom:
Eveline: Hello there. We would like to welcome you to our beautiful home, Goodwood. I reckon we should tell you about ourselves. My name is Eveline Croom.
Bryan: And I am Bryan Croom. We were both born in North Carolina. We moved to Florida in 1826 and here to Goodwood in 1837.
Eveline: Perhaps you should tell the children why we would move to such a faraway place.
Bryan: Well, we first moved to Gadsden County, Florida, in 1826. This was just five years after the territory of FL was transferred from Spanish control to United States control. We moved to Florida because the good soil was perfect for growing cotton. Cotton was a cash crop, meaning that we could make good money by selling it. We named that plantation Rocky Comfort and we thought we'd stay there forever, but then tragedy struck...
Eveline: Oh, dear. How sad! Bryan's dear brother, Hardy Croom, had purchased this land here near Tallahassee. He was going to move all of his planting operations here. He called it Lake Lafayette plantation and it only had a small cabin on the lake then (show picture). But he had planned on building a big house and moving his wife and three children here. One day in 1837, Hardy, his wife Frances, and the children were on a ship called "The Home" when a hurricane struck. They were all killed. We were simply devastated. Hardy was such a brilliant man. He was not just a planter, he was also a great naturalist and discovered several plants that no one else ever had.
|1839 lithograph of plantation on Lake Lafayette|
Bryan: Since I was my brother's business partner, I decided that we should move here to take over the operation of the new plantation. We changed the name to Goodwood and decided to grow mainly cotton and corn. And we did a very good job of it. We became one of the largest, most successful plantations in the area.
Eveline: But we needed a home, not just the little cabin by the lake. Hardy had drawn up plans for the big house, but he hadn't had time to build it. So we had it done just as he had wanted it to be done.
Bryan: I was so happy that Eveline had agreed to move out here to this wild place, so far from the town of Tallahassee that I made the house very beautiful for her. I spared no expense. Italian marble fireplaces. French frescoes on the parlor ceilings. Mirrors and chandeliers from New York City, Mahogany staircase from England, made just for our home.
Eveline: We really were out in the middle of nowhere. There was not even a railroad to Tallahassee. The closest was at St. Marks and that was only three years old when we moved here. And the downtown was just a few wooden buildings and dirt roads (show picture). But, the soil was very good and Bryan was such a hard worker that I knew we'd be just fine. And, even if we didn't have any children of our own, I had my mother and brother here to keep me company. We did have nieces and nephews stay with us quite often.
|1839 lithograph. Looking east on Jefferson from Adams.|
Bryan: This is what the home looked like when we built it. (show picture of house). It had ironwork columns instead of the white wooden ones you see here. And the cupola (the tower on the roof) was square instead of octagonal like you see now. I used to walk up to the cupola to get a look around the property. The trees were not quite so tall then, so I could see a ways.
Eveline: And since I wanted our home to be very fashionable, I had it painted rose colored with red shutters. The parlors were originally a deep rose color as well.
Bryan: We lit everything with candles and had a well out back where we got our water.
Eveline: Since you are such nice children, we would like to take you around to show you our home. We are going to walk through the downstairs.